With all of Forgotten Legacy finally previewed, it’s time to get planning for Gencon and the other events occurring before the release of Second City. As a Clan that routinely goes second, for us two of the most important FL cards are Border Keep XP and Bamboo Harvesters XP. The goal of this article is to help you decide which one fits your deck. Be warned- as much as my usual articles are based on pure opinion, this one is dramatically about what I believe, with zero facts to support it.
The theme of both the XP versions is that you are trading gold consistency for better Fate consistency. Both versions of Border Keep have the same basic ability- you can “Mulligan” Dynasty cards to the bottom of your deck, refilling face up. Both allow you to do this twice per game, but the trade off is that you can use BKbasic once at any point in the game, whilst BKxp has to be used turn 1. In return you get the ability to do something similar with your Fate cards, putting up to three on the bottom to draw that many. And now that I’ve basically just restated the wording on the cards, what does that actually mean, and how do you choose between them?
There are two key factors in choosing which BK to use. The first is whether your deck is more dependant on consistent Dynasty flips or consistent Fate draws. The second is whether you can handle the fact that your deck will punish you for using the XP.
Dynasty vs Fate
In general, Aggressive Military decks and Honour decks are about consistency in their Dynasty. They both need to flip Personalities every turn to maintain the pressure on their opponents. If a Lion player sees no Personalities on turn 3, his turn 4 attack will be anaemic, and he will lose all the tempo and advantage he built up going first. Likewise, even one turn without making a Personality for honour can be the death of an honour deck. Contrast this with the likes of PoCS Dishonour. Sure, it’s nice to see a guy every turn, but if you don’t get someone out in the mid-game you often don’t care, as a lot of your gold is being used on drawing cards anyway.
Although on one level this is a joke, it will certainly feel like it is true. If you switch to BKxp, you will experience amazing turn 1s, where you flip everything you could possibly ever want. And then turn 3 comes around and your deck shouts “VENGEANCE!!!” and hits you with whatever you want least. You have to accept that this will happen, and adjust your deck and mindset to compensate.
How to use BKxp
Like anything else in L5R, using BKxp is a skill that you won’t even realise you have if you can do it, and which will cost you games if you can’t. Using BKxp is about being aggressive in setting up your turn 2. It is a common belief that the first two turns in an L5R games are the most important, and it’s a belief that I share. To get full advantage of BKxp you need to not only know what you want to make on turn 1, you need to know what you want to see on turn 2, and dig for it. If your deck prefers lots of gold on turn 2, then use BKxp’s double Mulligan to get 4 holdings into your Provinces. If you prefer to see some Personalities, then make sure you have some in there. If you’re after some key cards (Jimen, Hisoka etc), then Mulligan away everything that isn’t them. BKbasic is a safety net, and with the XP you are taking a risk.
Drawing cards is cool, and it wins games. BKxp doesn’t really draw cards, but it’s still cool, and it definitely still wins games. Most decks will include meta cards, and it’s a rare match-up where you’ll want to have every meta card in your hand. BKxp lets you dump them under for something more relevant. In Military decks it lets you get rid of relatively weak bow actions in the hopes of drawing some kill, whereas in Dishonour it lets you get rid of combo cards that you don’t need at the moment, or helps dig for the last piece if you are getting ready to bomb. It’s a great option to have, if you can get your deck running smoothly.
The two Border Keeps are largely interchangeable- if you feel confident your deck will run consistently, then you can run XP, regardless of whatever your deck is doing. This is not at all true of Bamboo Harvesters. To choose between them you have to really understand how your deck ticks, and how important the extra gold is. Obviously, this applies more to low honour Clans than high, though they should also heavily consider which one to play.
Dynasty vs Fate
Once again, the importance your deck places on Dynasty or Fate is the key to which choice to make, but it has different factors than BK. The choice for Border Keep is all about consistency- can you afford a bad turn or not? With Bamboo Harvesters it’s about throughput- how much you want to make in a turn. If you are playing a Military deck that relies on applying pressure to your opponent, then you need to keep clearing your Provinces every turn. On the other hand, if you care less about making multiple Dynasty cards a turn, you don’t need the extra gold.
One key factor to remember is that is seldom simply the difference of 2g on turn 2. In most decks that 2g will buy another holding, so on turn 3 it’s 4g, and by turn 4 it’s often an entire Personality. This is what you are losing out on for extra card draw or cycle.
If you thought your deck hated you for playing BKxp, you’ll be shocked by its reaction to BHxp. Every turn 2 will be 4 Personalities or 3 Holdings and the one 10g Personality in the deck. You will be made to suffer for your card draw. Having the gold production of a deck going first, but with all the disadvantages of going second, you’ll definitely have to work hard to justify playing this outside a Defensive deck.
Who plays what? Also, why?
To end the article, here’s my quick first blush thoughts on which Scorpion decks play which versions:
PoCS Dishonour: BKxp, BHxp. The deck wins by drawing cards. BKxp is unquestionably the right call. BHxp is a better fit for decks that make a Personality on turn 1, but will usually be the correct choice anyway.
Midgame Ninja: BKbasic, BHbasic. Consistency is the name of the game for non-blitz Ninja. You need to keep flipping guys to allow you access to the high number of battle actions the deck can play.
Blitz Ninja: BKxp, BHbasic. All you care about is making a guy (or three) turn 1, and attacking turn 2. You’ll need the gold from BHbasic for Followers, but you’ll want the cycle from BKxp to ensure you draw the blitz enablers.
Magistrate Defensive Military: BKxp, BHxp. A deck I’m not sure works even post-FL, my testing has shown that if you play it as hyper-aggressive defensive (i.e. Always defend, always kill everything) then you will steal back tempo and beat Military consistently. BHxp is essential for the deck, as after two fights you have no cards left in hand.
Kensai: BKxp, BHbasic: Entirely gut feeling, as I haven’t built post-FL Kensai yet, but I think you’ll still want the gold from BHbasic, but the cycle from BKxp will allow you to better manipulate the weapon numbers in the deck, since you can cycle an excess or dig for them. The deck is also less reliant on seeing multiple Personalities a turn than most Military, so it won’t miss the second Mulligan.
Overall I’m a massive fan of both the Experienced starting holdings, and I think Design did a spectacular job balancing them. Neither is completely superior to the Basics, but they will certainly have decks they go straight into.
What decks will you be playing your XP starting holdings in? Did I miss anything important? Let us know on our Forum